Following the welcomed return of his solo project SIMM, whose remarkable album “Visitor” comes out on Submerged’s label Ohm Resistance, we had a chat with talented Italian musician, producer and sound designer Eraldo Bernocchi.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Eraldo. How are you?
Eraldo Bernocchi: Really well thank you!
Chain D.L.K.: 16 years have gone by since your debut under the guise of SIMM, one of my favorites of that era of electronic music… before speaking about SIMM’s return, some listeners might need a refresh of memory… once upon a time there was a younger Eraldo (you fill in the blanks)…
Eraldo Bernocchi: …who had been asked by Mick Harris to compose some tracks for his future label.
This is how SIMM has seen the light. I offered two tracks to Mick and they ended up on a 12″, and right after that he asked me for a full album. Then only silence came as I really felt SIMM belonged to Mick’s label, no other place was suitable.
Chain D.L.K.: I would dare to ask why you halted SIMM for such a so long period… or did you set yourself a reminder for 2013 (“remember to reactivate SIMM virus in 2013”)?
Eraldo Bernocchi: As I said above, I was really sure this was a project belonging to Mick’s label Possible Records. Right after Mick closed the label I shut down SIMM. Apart from a couple of tracks which appeared on Laswell compilations the project was dead. Three years ago Jakob Nybo from Vital Records started to ask me for a new SIMM record. At the beginning I was absolutely against it because I think some stuff belongs to certain moments in time, but on the other side SIMM is a project where I’m 100% alone and this gives me a different perspective from the rest of things I do collaborating with other artists. Jakob insisted like a madman on this but for me the answer was always “no”. Then one day I started to work on a couple of tracks just for the sake of it and here we are. SIMM is back, after “only” 16 years…
Chain D.L.K.: Your very first releases were collaborations with the legendary Mick Harris… how do you remember those years?
Eraldo Bernocchi: Actually my very first releases were with Sigillum S, Mick and other collaborations came after some 10 years I had already been messing around with tapes, electronics, distorted guitars and I had already released quite some stuff. When we started to do things together there was an amazing energy, me and Mick were exchanging a lot about electronics, especially samplers as both of us were using EMU machines because of those fantastic filters they had. I went to Birmingham several times and he came to Milan other times, we helped each other and explored sound possibilities.
Actually Bill Laswell suggested that I get in touch with Mick saying that the two of us could do things together. I have nothing but good memories of those days and I miss them.
Chain D.L.K.: Mick Harris was just one of the many great musicians you collaborated with… you often said that Bill Laswell is one of your biggest masters… how would you sum up Laswell’s teachings about sound or music?
Eraldo Bernocchi: Bill is a master for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you have the chance to work with him or not, sometimes it is enough to just listen to one of his records to get a lesson in music production…
In 2014 it will have been 20 years that we work together and I really consider him a total master.
First of all he’s a monster bass player, one of the few who can drive an entire band keeping a killer bass line but at the very same time he’s capable of incredible harmonic backgrounds, both at very same time. Secondly he’s a genius when it comes to producing and mixing. One day in the studio with him and you’ll learn more than you might learn in 4 years of any music production school. And he’s a unique human being, really caring for other artists and always trying to help you out in case of need. I owe Bill a lot, and you’re right, I consider him a master as well a sort of a father.
Chain D.L.K.: Those who follow your activities know you’re a “studio-worm”, as some people still imagine electronic musicians. You actively follow the social and political situation and you maybe mirror the perception of decadence. How does it all influence your music?
Eraldo Bernocchi: I love being in the studio, working on sound, very often sound in its purest form. At the very same time I always try to travel and follow what happens on this planet. My music is often a reflection of something and it’s mainly influenced by images, them being still or moving.
Chain D.L.K.: Let’s talk about your new release. Who’s the “visitor” quoted in the title?
Eraldo Bernocchi: Maybe the unexpected emotion you feel by chance? The night noises you hear when everything should be still? A killer? A memory? It’s something who appears out of nowhere but at the very same time lurks in the bottom of your deep self.
Chain D.L.K.: Many tracks seems to speak to listeners… “Revenge Is Faith” sounds somehow related to the Nemesis many people, who are aware of certain injustices, are deliriously awaiting, where revenge becomes a sort of vague simulacrum, is that right?
Eraldo Bernocchi: Revenge is a concept, a feeling, that the modern world, nowadays entirely fucked up by political correctness, is trying to hide. Pretty much like death. You’re not allowed to die publicly, you die in silence, behind velvet curtains. You aren’t allowed to hate, to revenge. All you can do is forgive, “understand” etc etc. Well, I never believed in similar concepts. You hit me, I don’t forgive you, I hit you back. I never forget, I never forgive. I’m completely unable to do it, it’s a birth defect, it’s my operating system that just can’t handle it. I’m probably very primitive on this level or de-voluted but I don’t care.
A lot of people are thinking like this but I suspect they’re afraid to express it in a clear and honest way. Revenge is a natural thing, like dying, fucking, eating or farting and can become a faith. Have you seen “Valhalla Rising”, the movie about the Norse warrior and his adventures in an unknown land? It’s a super violent movie where violence and revenge are closely linked in a very direct way. There’s a lot in “Visitor” from that movie, especially silences and spaces.
Chain D.L.K.: Some tracks like “The Sadness of Things” or “Crematorium” sound like pitiless and somewhat sepulchral snapshots of “reality”… is there any space for some abstract hope?
Eraldo Bernocchi: The tracks you mention, and some others, are very cruel, more than pitiless. They’re hopeless, especially “The sadness of things”. Regarding your question, I’m convinced we are doomed (thankfully…) so, no, I don’t see any hope around. I try to live the best possible life. It will all end quite soon, maybe 50 years, maybe 100 but, thanks to our infinite stupidity, humanity will end. The universe will be thankful. I dream of composing the soundtrack for that moment…
Chain D.L.K.: Would you say you followed a sort of narrative plot on “Visitor”? Could it be considered a sort of soundtrack for a (non-existent?) movie?
Eraldo Bernocchi: Kind of, my tracks have always been soundtracks. That’s the way I perceive music and sound.
I dare to think this album could work on a movie, maybe a couple of tracks in particular.
Chain D.L.K.: Some tracks reminded me of long-lost recording techniques based on tape dubbing… what was the sonic equipment for “Visitor”? Any make-up on old recordings?
Eraldo Bernocchi: My technique is a mixture. I improvise a lot with guitars, treating them heavily, old analogue synths, hand-made noise boxes, piano and anything I feel inspired by. Everything is recorded on a computer but in an old-fashioned way. For me the computer is an advanced version of a tape recorded not a machine that I’ll use to edit every bit and piece until everything is perfect. I hate that approach. You can spot those records from a distance, especially metal ones, where they edited everything or played the drums using triggers.
I edit things too but only if necessary. I use plug-ins like everybody else but I’m not overdoing it. I like to keep things simple and I also use external effects because most of them are still sounding better than plug-ins. There’s no make up on “Visitor”, that’s my sound.
Chain D.L.K.: What about Khomatech’s cover artwork?
Eraldo Bernocchi: I usually have Petulia Mattioli doing all my artworks, we’ve living together since 21 years, she knows me inside out and I love her super clean and deep work. This time Kurt suggested Khomatech and I thought it was a good idea to keep the label’s direction, and I like what he does. The photo he used is a “plastinated” human body. Gunther Von Hagen invented this process and there’s an amazing show travelling around the world… I have already been there three times! The other photo is taken in Pripyat/Chernobyl… the town that disappeared in less than one day right after the nuclear plant incident. Perfect for this album… radioactivity is a terrible “visitor”.
Chain D.L.K.: Are you going to bring “Visitor” on a live stage?
Eraldo Bernocchi: I’d love to. Let’s see what happens in the future.
visit Eraldo Bernocchi on the web at: www.eraldobernocchi.com